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Ewes and rams ready for mating game

A warm dry week is welcomed with open arms. The change in the weather allowed us to prepare the ewes and rams for the mating season.

We spent the past few days, sorting and grading the ewes for this prupose. The ewes that have been selected for selling will be given a supply of good quality grass for two weeks before they are sold.

The ewes that we are retaining are in the process of being flushed. They have been on a lower plain of nutrition over the summer months and the grass available to them has increased gradually over the past two weeks and will continue to increase until the ram is let out.

I do this to maximise the fertility of the ewes with the aim of having the ewes in improved condition at mating. The ewes have also been given a fluke dose (Flukiver) about 10 days ago and, because it has been a wet year, they will receive a second dose three weeks from their last one.

The sale of mule ewe lambs at the recent Mayo Mule and Greyface sale in Ballinrobe has allowed the breeding ewes to move into better fields of grass on the farm. The preparation for next year's crop of lambs is under way.

I was happy with the way our ewe lambs sold this year. On average they sold €5 better per lamb than the sale last year. I hadn't expected this because the recent trend of breeding sheep was that they were €20-30 back.

The sale was a success with a full clearance of sheep. Overall prices were back about €10-20 a head on last year.

And while prices may be less buoyant than 12 months ago, I am still keen to reinvest in the flock.

I am currently in the process of organising my pedigree Bluefaced Leicester ewes for AI. I purchased semen in Scotland from some of the best rams and top bloodlines in the breed. These rams have been tried and tested and I hope I will have some of their progeny for sale this time next year.

The use of frozen semen does not have as high a success rate as using fresh semen. Frozen semen has a conception rate of between 50pc and 80pc. The conception rates vary greatly due to the semen quality, breed of ram, management and time of the year.

With fresh semen, conception rates of over 80pc can be expected. This is why I am retaining and using my best ram lamb on the ewes that he is not related to. He is the best lamb I have bred and from a ewe that I flushed for embryos last year. He will also be used on my Blackface ewes to produce mules.

It is the second year that I will AI the Bluefaced Leicester ewes using laparoscopic insemination. The ewes have been cared for over the past few weeks in the correct manner and hopefully there will be few repeats.

I have found many benefits to AI, especially that all the ewes will lamb down in a uniform and collective manner together. This allowed me last spring to pinpoint within a day or two when the ewes would lamb.

The lambs could be reared in groups of similar size, which makes management easier. It has also allowed me to use some of the best rams in the breed.

This has me already planning for next year without this year's ram lambs sold yet.

I am quite happy with the way my lambs thrived this year and I will have them for sale along with hogget rams at the fifth annual sale of pedigree Bluefaced Leicester Rams at Ballinrobe Mart on Friday, September 21. There will be about 100 sheep on offer.

The stock rams have also had their once-over.

I have checked them for any abnormalities in the testicles and scrotum, and have checked that they are not injured in any way. It is important to have them in good working order and injury-free.

The rams will have a condition score of between 3.5 and 4 when they are let in with the ewes. I will also try to offer these guys some oats before they set to work, to ensure they are lively. They will also be fed throughout the breeding season to keep them in tip-top shape.

Tom Staunton is a sheep farmer from Tourmakeady, Co Mayo.

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